In August 1953, Mossadegh, the then Iranian prime minister, was overthrown through a coup de tat; however, there have been intense speculations about the role of CIA in this coup and other coups that happened after the Second World War II. Some critics have looked at CIA’s involvement negatively. For instance, William Blum has come out clearly to criticize CIA’s involvement. This paper analyzes different excerpts, compiled by Mary Ann Heiss from works of different scholars either supporting CIA or faulting it.
Blum posits that Mossadegh pushed successfully for nationalization of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), which was owned by the British. However, this did not go well with the British and after she failed to reclaim her company, she enlisted the help of the United States of America. Amongst those who supported the removal of Mossadegh was John Foster Dulles, an anticommunist who referred to Mossadegh as a lunatic. Therefore, Americans got involved in the removal of Mossadegh than the British.
Before the oust, the Americans tried diverse ways to attack Mossadegh including an attempt to announce Mossadegh’s ‘compulsory leave’ replacing him with Fazlollah Zahedi among other dirty tactics that would implicate Mossadegh in all wrong doings. Nevertheless, Mossadegh utilized his constitutional powers and stayed put. Unfortunately, the CIA invented new tactics and later overthrew Mossadegh. Blum insinuates that CIA’s interest was in the rich oil deposits around Iran.
According to Blum, after CIA’s successful coup against Mossadegh, it applied the same tactics to oust Guzman, a year later. The reason behind this coup was that Guatemala was on the precipice of communism under the leadership of Guzman; however, Blum sees more than these claims in this coup. Blum reveals that John Peurifoy, the U.S ambassador to Guatemala warned that, “We cannot permit a Soviet Republic to be established between Texas and the Panama Canal…the Soviet Union might actually seize the canal” (Heiss 169).
Therefore, America’s interest was not stopping Guatemala from plunging into communism; on the contrary, it was to protect the Panama Canal. After the coup, America accused Guatemala of getting weapons from Czechoslovakia; however, it emerged that Czechoslovakia ‘gave’ weapons to Guatemala but for money. This could have happened with any other country wiling to buy weapons.
The other reason behind America’s interest in Guatemala was land. Blum points out that the United Fruit Company executives pressured America to topple Guzman because he had expropriated much of its land and the $525, 000 that the government was offering was peanuts compared to the company’s $16 million asking price. Moreover, Anne Whiteman doubled as President Eisenhower personal secretary and wife to one of the executives of the company and this explains why the company had much influence in pushing for Guzman’s removal.
Guzman made it clear that, “Foreign capital will always be welcome as long as it adjusts to local conditions, always subordinate to Guatemalan laws…and strictly restrains from intervening in the national’s social and political life” (Heiss 173). Unfortunately, America was not willing to adhere to these laws hence the coup in 1954. Blum argues that the CIA had even tried to bribe Guzman through a Swiss bank; however, Guzman refused and consequently overthrown.
Despite the fact that many critics questioned the role of CIA’s in different coups, there are those who laud CIA’s intervention in different cases.
For instance, in their work, The Mysterious Doings of CIA, Richard, and Gladys Harkness laud CIA’s work. According to Harkness and Harkness, “On May 28, 1953, President Eisenhower received a letter from Mossadegh…The United States would fill his (Mossadegh) bankruptcy account with American dollars ‘or else.’
The ‘or else’, Mossadegh hinted darkly, would be an economic agreement and mutual-defense pact with Russia” (Heiss 175). This was blackmail and CIA acted in the best interest of everyone. Moreover, it halted Iran from walking down the communism path. CIA pursued common good for everyone and freedom for those who tirelessly sought liberty at the risk of their lives.
Concerning the issue of Guatemala, some scholars support Guzman’s removal. Fredrick Marks III is one of such supporters as he expounds in his work; The CIA and Castillo Armas in Guatemala; New Clues to an Old Puzzle. Mark III emphasizes that, communism was a threat to Guatemala and CIA acted appropriately by overthrowing President Guzman.
The then Secretary of State John Dulles said, “Military force should not be used aggressively to achieve national goals” (Heiss 176). However, at the same time, the U.S got involved in the removal of Guzman. This fact shows that there was a good reason behind CIA’s involvement in the removal of this popularly elected president. What was it then?
Marks III posits that, even though Guzman’s cabinet was void of communists, he was surrounded by them running from his advisers, through close allied legislators to communist sympathizers. “By March 1954, Church leaders, journalists, and even prominent anticommunist citizens started receiving death threats.
Score of people just ‘disappeared’ and Soviet Bloc arms started pouring into the country” (Heiss 177). All these events heralded communism and not even Guzman himself could deny that. Therefore, CIA intervened just at the right time to rescue Guatemala from becoming a communist state.
Well, future behaviors can be predicted through past and present behavior; therefore, it logically follows that, past behaviors can be determined from future and present behaviors. Looking at current and recent past CIA’s dealings, it is compelling to conclude that it did not act in good faith in ousting both Guzman and Mossadegh. CIA has always acted in ‘personal’ interests.
For instance, when millions of innocent Rwandese citizens were being hacked to death in the 1994 massacre, the CIA was just watching and never did anything to stop these crimes against humanity. However, there has been a lot of interest from Far East and this is directly linked to the benefits that the U.S gets from the same; oil. Principles and policies do not change overnight and if CIA acted solely to prevent communism in both Iran and Guatemala, the same principles would have applied in the case of Rwanda.
Unfortunately, Rwanda had nothing that would benefit the U.S; therefore, there were no ‘matters of international’ concern that would stir up the CIA. The United States of America has always acted to guard her interests and the same happened in Guatemala and Iran; unfortunately, both Mossadegh and Guzman were only victims as they treaded on dangerous grounds by opposing the U.S.; therefore, they had to go.
CIA’s dealings in 1950s attracted friends and foes alike. There are those who supported its involvement in two different coups that saw the removal of Guzman of Guatemala and Mossadegh of Iran. Fredrick Marks III, Robert Harkeness, and Gladys Harkness are such supporters who justify CIA’s dealings.
However, the likes of William Blum dismisses CIA’s dealings as ‘personal interest’ moves that had nothing to do with stopping these two countries from becoming communist states. Nevertheless, CIA has on many occasions acted in ‘personal’ interest, not for the common good of everyone.
Heiss, Mary. (Ed). “The CIA in the World in the 1950s.” Common Courage Press, 1995.